NORTHAMPTON, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Business owners and residents in Northampton are upset over recent changes to Main Street, designed to give people more room to walk around safely during the pandemic.

That’s why, on Thursday, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz held a meeting to give these frustrated residents a chance to voice their complaints.

Main Street in Northampton has a new look and new purpose. Parking spaces have been transformed into wider sidewalks to give people the chance to socially distance.

However, it’s not a change that everyone agrees with.

“Why we disagree with it? Plenty of data, surveys, and studies conducted by the city that clearly show downtown parking is the most important part of commerce and downtown, so why did you destroy it?” said business owner Peter Kerantzas.

Western Mass News was there this morning when business owners, like Kerantzas, met up - wearing masks and socially distancing - to participate in a Zoom call with Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz.

The discussion centered around the recent changes to downtown brought on by the new Shared Streets and Spaces Program - widening sidewalks and taking away parking spaces.

“The city has a tendency to ignore everything, especially if it’s a complaint against something they put forward. If you’re not in support, you’re not gonna get support,” Kerantzas added.

The meeting comes after a petition was started generating signatures from over 50 business owners and 1,000 residents, all saying they are against these changes.

“We need to be heard. We are going to be heard because businesses are going to close and we’re not excepting that it doesn’t matter. This is do or die for a lot of people,” Kerantzas explained.

During the meeting, business owner after business owner took turns, airing their grievances directly to the mayor and emotions ran high.

“I am it willing to sacrifice one member from the community for this project. Not one! That is why we are here!” Kerantzas noted.

One woman in the meeting added, “They are trying to survive…many of them and this is not working, mayor.”

“This is not fair...this is not fair...we’re trying to survive and this isn’t fair,” said another person

While listening to each resident’s concerns, the mayor also defended his decisions.

“I want to emphasize the goal of the project was to promote economic recovery downtown. And to bring more people safety downtown,” Narkewicz explained.

As for what was decided, nothing was conclusive, but the mayor says he’s willing to figure out a compromise.

“I’m more than willing to work with downtown businesses to solve problems,” Narkewicz said.

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